This column is nominally about looking at the relationship between design and games. But, in its title that riffs on Don Norman’s most famous book, I’d argue that the “Everyday” is as important as the D-word. After all, design is not really something most people engage with actively, either as connoisseurs or as critics. Most often, it is something people engage with without knowing it’s there. “Design,” it turns out, is usually the answer to the question we so rarely ask of the products we use everyday: “What made this good?”
It’s a really nice film. It’s not a compilation of players’ faces, or screen-capture, but primarily of the audience. And it reminds me why I love fighters so much: not just for the competition inherent in the game, but the community. Not a capital-c Community, either – but the community that springs up around every screen, every cab, every website, where you can’t stop talking to other players about what you’re seeing.
Just look at the crowd. Most of them will have entered the tournament and been knocked out, and yet they’re still there for the real show – watching the best players in the world waggle sticks and stab buttons. There’s been some incredible play at this year’s Evo, and it’s lovely to see someone concentrate on the incredible atmosphere to back it up.
Ah, the race for the last seaside parking space: Mum’s tired, Dad’s lost, the kids need the loo, and EVERYONE’S COMPLAINING. A noisy, competitive role-playing team game for two or more groups of four.
It involves a deck of cards I’m still balancing, and groups of four pretending to be in a people carrier. The Clore Ballroom will be reverberating to cries of “I’M REALLY HUNGRY”, “I FEEL SICK”, and “ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET?” next Thursday night. Maybe. Or it might break quite badly. Either way: it should be fun, and there are loads of other games on that night, some of which I can tell you are definitely really good.
This is my first game for the Sandpit; given I work at H&S, thought I ought to dip my toes into the more pervasive and theatrical end of game design. Charabanc is the result. We’ll see how it turns out next week…
I’m going to be talking at Story Warp on Thursday evening (the 28th) – an event about storytelling hosted by Made by Many. It’s a great panel, and I think – given my own perspectives and beliefs on the S-word – there’s going to be some healthy and vigorous debate.
Slightly late notice – and the event’s full now, I believe. But: if you’re there, do say hello. It should be a good evening.
I don’t know if Subbuteo is a great game. I’m sure it is. It just wasn’t really a game to me. It was just one of many things I shared with my da. Like Star Trek and in-depth conversations about the nature of the universe. Now, as a father myself, I realise what was actually happening when we were playing that game we didn’t know the rules of. We were just being with each other. Flicking plastic. Shooting the shit. Playing.
What’s the point of all this?
Being with each other – for me, that’s the key element of board gaming. When you get that occasional person who openly tells you they see board games as “sad”, I feel a bit sad that they don’t get it. If I want to play a board game with you, it really just means I want to sit with you a while. That’s not a bad thing, is it?
No, Rab, that’s not a bad thing at all. And this is why some of my favourite boardgame memories are from afternoons and evenings sat in pubs around the country, rattling through game after game of Lost Cities, or Blue Moon, sat by a welcoming fire or bright window, pints in hand. It’s just a way to spend some time with a friend.
11 million player deaths in Just Cause 2 – a big open world game – plotted in 3D; a map of the world made only out of player-deaths.
What happens is: the map becomes visible, but not it’s quite the “real” map. Unstead, you see obvious things like the really tall buildings – skyscrapers – and the really tall sites – mountains – becoming very evident.
Strange things happen underneath tall stuff – under the biggest skyscrapers, and the casino that hangs in the air like an airship – the shape of the object is very clear at the top, but then disappears into fountains and fluid shapes underneath it, as everybody falls off, hits things on the way down, corpses collecting on the ground underneath the airship – see 00:58 for a really obvious example.
So it visualises both the objects in the world, and the physics of the world. Yes, there are surfaces where people have been shot or run out of health for other reasons, but then there are all the points that extruded from those surfaces according to curves defined by velocity and world-gravity. The world and the system all at once. You could, I suppose, reverse-engineer one from the other. And, of course, what you’re seeing here isn’t geography – it’s just the visualisation of a systemic layer in the game (player-death).
And in that sense, the visualisation shows just how closely the world and its systems are linked. Pretty.
I’m writing a new column for the online component of excellent games magazine Kill Screen.
It’s called The Game Design of Everyday Things, and is about the ways that the ways we interact with objects, spaces, and activities in the everyday world can inform the way we design games.
Which is, you know, a big topic, but one that pretty much encompasses lots of my interests and work to date. I think it’s going to cover some nice ideas in the coming weeks and months.
I’ve started by looking at that fundamental of electronic games: buttons.
Every morning, I push the STOP button on the handrail of a number 63 bus. It tells the driver I want to get off at the next stop.
I’m very fond of the button. It immediately radiates robustness: chunky yellow plastic on the red handrail. The command, STOP, is written in white capitals on red. There’s a depression to place my thumb into, with the raised pips of a Braille letter “S” to emphasize its intent for the partially sighted. When pushed, the button gives a quarter-inch of travel before stopping, with no trace of springiness; a dull mechanical ting rings out, and the driver pulls over at the next stop.
It’s immediately clear what to do with this button, and what the outcome of pushing it will be. It makes its usage and intent obvious.
This is not the first time I’ve played a lot of Torchlight. I played a lot of it on Windows, at a desk. I bought it again and played a lot of it – mainly on trains – when it came out on the Mac. And now I’ve bought it a third time, on the Xbox, and am playing it from my sofa.
I know why I’m quite so engrossed. It’s not just that Torchlight is a fine iteration of the dungeon-crawler, walking the tightrope between light-hearted entertainment and dense inventory management just so. It’s something more personal, that takes me right back to the dawn of Tom-as-a-gamer, embedded in the core of my gamer DNA.
I’m playing a lot of Torchlight, because, when I play it, in my heart, I know I’m really playing Rogue.
My first post over at the Hide & Seek blog, in which I write about Roguelikes as casual games, why I love them so, the ways they’re casual (and the ways they aren’t), and what the current state of Roguelikes is.
This is from the help pages to Tiny Wings (iTunes Store link) by Andreas Illiger.
That’s all you need to know, right there:
Conflict: this will be difficult because your wings are tiny.
Game mechanic: perhaps you can use the many beautiful hills to help.
And then there’s an illustration to piece all the pieces together and explain what you’re going to do.
The whole game is explained in two sentences; two sentences that manage to contain pathos, hope, a goal, and hints at the gameplay mechanic for achieving that goal.
It doesn’t even matter that “beautyfull” is misspelt (or whether that misspelling is deliberate or not); it’s some of the clearest and most effectively concise writing I’ve seen in a game for a long while.
Lovely. (As, of course, is the whole game – fun, simple, very pretty, and full of flow-state euphoria when it’s going well. Its success is deserved.)
The video of my talk from Interesting North is now online. Well, they beat me to finishing my transcript – which didn’t include the adlibs and diversions anyway.
Things Rules Do is twenty minutes that looks at games of all forms, and the rules and systems that make their skeleton. It’s about the weird things that rules can do, beyond “tell you how to play”, such as inspire mastery, encourage deviance, and tell stories. It was written for a general, interested audience – not specifically for gamers – and covers a few topics close to my heart. You might like it.
And, of course – thanks to Tim and the team for their work in getting this online.